Lillis-White’s third shutout earns split for Thunderbirds

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UBC Thunderbirds1

April 12, 2014, VANCOUVER (ISN) – After being no-hit through six innings of game one by Corban’s ace en route to an 8-3 loss, the UBC Thunderbirds countered with an ace of their own in game two, as Conor Lillis-White picked up his third complete-game shutout of the season to give UBC a 5-0 win to split Friday’s doubleheader.

Lillis-White entered the game with the second-best ERA among qualified pitchers in the entire NAIA at 0.77, and he proved his 5-0 shutout win over Menlo two weeks ago was no fluke by duplicating the feat on Friday down in Salem, Oregon. He also had a seven-inning shutout against Oregon Tech back in March. On Friday, he allowed just three hits and a walk, striking out seven and going the distance to improve to 6-0 on the season.

And for most of the game, the ‘Birds needed him to be every bit as good as he was, because UBC led just 1-0 heading into the eighth inning, with Corban’s Austin Guzzon – the other half of their double-ace combo – also throwing gem of a game.

UBC finally broke it open with four runs in the eighth against the Corban bullpen. Guzzon left after plunking Jerod Bartnik to open the inning, and after his replacement issued a walk to Bryan Arthur, Cam Firth smacked a two-run double to make it 3-0 UBC.

Sebastian Wong’s single brought Firth home, and he eventually scored on an error on Tyson Popoff’s groundball to third base.

UBC’s first run of the day came on an RBI single from Matt Spillman in the second inning. He led the ‘Birds with two hits in the game.

It was a crucial win for the ‘Birds in the context of the playoff picture, as they entered the day with a one-game lead on Corban, which was erased by their 8-3 loss in game one.

Jacob Kopra was on the mound for the Warriors, and he was dealing. He had a no-hitter and a 4-0 lead going through six before UBC made things very interesting in the seventh. Bartnik finally broke up the no-no with a single to left field, and UBC capitalized with an RBI single from Arthur, a bunt RBI single from Firth, and a fielder’s choice RBI by Wong to make it a 4-3 game.

But the Warriors rebuilt their lead in the eighth with a two-run single from Jon Mercer and a two-run double from NAIA West hitting leader Daniel Orr. Daniel Aranda shut the door in the eighth and ninth to get the save, and Kopra improved to 8-0 on the season.

The T-Birds were unusually shaky defensively in game one, committing four errors leading to just two of the eight Corban runs being earned.

Jeremy Newton had the start in game one, going six innings and allowing four runs, one of which was earned, on seven hits and a walk, with two strikeouts. He is 2-2 on the year.

Alex Webb pitched one spotless inning in relief, with one strikeout. Alex Graham had a tough day in relief, going two thirds of an inning and allowing four runs, again only one of which was earned, on two hits and two walks. Tyler Gillies mopped up the final third of an inning on the mound.

Aaron Horanski, Spillman, Arthur and Firth all had two hits on the day for UBC, making them responsible for eight of the T-Birds’ total 10 hits in the doubleheader. Firth had three RBIs, and Spillman and Wong each had two RBIs.

The T-Birds are now 24-10 overall and 15-7 in conference play, maintaining their one-game lead over the Warriors, who are 25-18 overall and 14-8 in the conference.

The College of Idaho Coyotes are also in the mix for the right to host the NAIA West tournament at 14-6 in the conference, but they were inactive on Friday, waiting to start their four-game set with Concordia on Saturday.

UBC and Corban wrap up their series on Saturday with another doubleheader at 11 a.m. After that, UBC returns home for their final regular season series against the Simpson Redhawks.

 

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